With the NBA playoffs almost among us, each of the sixteen teams who will eventually make up the post season will have dreams of going all the way and be crowned the NBA champions. Of course for some this is still merely a pipe dream, while for others it is the absolute end goal, with any other result deemed a failure. With that in mind we take a quick and lighthearted look at how each team can potentially do once the playoffs start.
Why They Can Win It All
Without oversimplifying things, when you have a player called Kevin Durant on your roster, big things are possible. It doesn’t matter what other players are on the court with him, he still gets it done on a personal level, night after night. Injuries to Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha should have derailed their campaign. Westbrook alone has had three knee surgeries since last season and Sefolosha is their best defender. It hasn’t mattered though, as Durant has carried this team to victories anyway. Don’t forget, this team has been to the NBA Finals before, and while it might not always look like they have a chip on their shoulder having lost to the Miami Heat, they most certainly do.
Even without their best defenders, this team can score, a lot. Durant is having an insane year, scoring 31.9 points per game. He also went on that memorable Michael Jordan beating tear of 41 games straight scoring 25 or more points. The Thunder as a team though, aren’t too shabby at putting the ball in the bucket either. The Thunder average 106.4 points a game, good for fifth in the league. They are more than just scoring though, and that is what makes this team really great. Starting with Durant, who is having a career year in assists (5.5 a game) and also snatching up rebounds (7.5) sets the tone as he does a bit of everything for the team. Those stats prove he is more than just scoring, and his team feeds off of that. The 44.9 rebounds that Oklahoma City grabs is good for sixth in the league, and these equate to stopping their opponents from picking up second chance points, as well as tacking on extra points themselves by keeping possessions alive. General manager Sam Presti has done an amazing job in keeping the books balanced and the young talent and rookie contracts that are constantly being brought onboard making an impact right away. It is almost San Antonio Spurs-esque in the way players can be plugged into the system. Steven Adams, Reggie Jackson and particularly Jeremy Lamb are examples of this.
Why They Might Exit Early
There is much to like about this team, although it is a well known fact that if Durant ever went down with an injury, this team would be gone in a hurry. Yes he is that important to this team, but we all knew that anyway. Injury has been a factor for other players as mentioned too, with Westbrook no longer the reliable player he once was. As a unit though, a more interesting statistic that may get them into a sticky situation once the playoffs begin is the personal fouls they rack up. The Thunder are third in the league (22.7) in personal fouls racked up in a game, and they’ll need to keep their cool if they are serious about winning a title this year. If any one of their starting unit are forced to sit for extended periods because of foul trouble, they can be found out.
The Thunder rank 15th in made 3-point attempts as well, and while they are great at so many other areas of the game and can survive accordingly, this number could do with being bumped up a little. The three point shot is massively in style these days, and while living and dying by it is still not advised, if the Thunder could add a more consistent 3-point game to their offensive arsenal, they would be really tough to beat. You might argue that they won’t exit early if this number stays the same and you would be right, but again there is not a lot not to like about this team. Even they’re free throw percentage (Second in the league at an 80.5 percent conversion rate) is great. So we may be nitpicking with the 3-point shot, but there is not much more wrong with this team. Depth is maybe an issue, should the likes of rookie Steven Adams or Caron Butler have to play big minutes the team may also struggle then too.
Nick Collison. He’s 33, averaging 4.3 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.3 assists, so why exactly could he be the difference? If you’ve ever watched the Thunder though, you’ll understand why. Statistics tell you one side of the game, and while Collison is never going to fill up the stat sheet, he brings to the table the intangibles that don’t show up in the numbers. He hasn’t started a single game all year, and only two last year for that matter, and his 16.8 minutes this year are a career low. But when he checks into a game, the crowd perks up a little. He brings heart and determination to the team, and will fight for every loose ball and rebound going. Teams need a player like this, a kind of a do all of the little things that aren’t flashy and don’t show up in the box score kind of guys. He is also partial to coming up with the big play for his team too, be it a key rebound or put back.
How They’ll Do
Conference finals. You have to figure that, as great as Durant is, the collective depth that the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Clippers have will be too much for this team. It is a shame, if anybody deserves a ring right now it’s Durant, and really if this continues to happen he will have to look elsewhere if he hopes to ever win a title. It is the curse of playing for a small market team. Only a truly amazing playoff campaign from Durant and every other player playing to a level they never have before will result in a championship, and that is just not going to happen.